Rep. Rogers Commemorates Dedication Of Col. Donald Blakeslee Memorial Bridge
Bridge connecting Painesville and Fairport Harbor named in honor of decorated World War II flying ace
September 18, 2020
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COLUMBUS – State Rep. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) today announced the unveiling of the Col. Donald Blakeslee Memorial Bridge signs at the foot of the bridge connecting Painesville and the Village of Fairport Harbor along State Route 535. The bridge naming was the result of legislation introduced by Rogers and was signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine in March 2020. The honorary designation recognizes Col. Donald Blakeslee of Fairport Harbor, whose accomplished service as a U.S. Army Air Corp fighter pilot in World War II earned him two Distinguished Service Crosses, eight Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Silver Stars and eight Air Medals.

"The State of Ohio today honors Col. Blakeslee's legacy of service to our country by designating this bridge – which serves as the primary entryway into the Village of Fairport Harbor, Donald's birthplace and boyhood hometown— in his honor," said Rogers. "To this day, Col. Blakeslee remains a legend among American airmen, and has been referred to as 'Patton in a P-51 Mustang'."

Col. Blakeslee’s exploits as an ace pilot, flying first for the Royal Canadian Air Force and, later, the U.S. Army Air Corp's 4th Fighter Group, were performed in a tour of duty that included more combat missions than any other American pilot in the European Theater in which Col. Blakeslee logged more than 1,000 combat flight hours.

As a commander in the 4th Fighter Group, Col. Blakeslee contributed to the outfit's elite reputation as one of the most effective units of the Eighth Fighter Command. In addition to becoming the first Allied airman to fly over the German capital of Berlin in March of 1944, Col. Blakeslee led a number of arduous escort missions accompanying B-17 and B-24 bombers to critical strategic targets in enemy territory.

Col. Blakeslee continued to serve in the United States Air Force after the Second World War, leading the 27th Fighter Wing in the Korean War, where his awards included the Legion of Merit, an additional Distinguished Flying Cross and four more Air Medals.

"While both the Colonel and his wife are now interned in the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., his memory as a veteran, father, husband and one of America's heroes lives on,” added Rogers.

The dedication ceremony was held near the north head of the newly dedicated bridge on the Fairport Harbor side of Grand River.

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